1. Make a budget (and stick to it). A budget overwhelms many people but it is really nothing more than devising a plan for every dollar you bring in. Having a budget helps you spend smarter and think more. It also helps to improve your buying power. The best way to make a budget is to start by sitting down with your spouse and deciding how much you spend on regular categories like groceries, gas, medical, etc. each month. Talk through these things and get them down on paper. Then spend accordingly. An article that goes into step by step detail about making a budget can be found at:
2. Stop using credit cards. Studies show that people who use credit cards buy more and think less about their purchases. By learning to spend cash and limiting your purchases, you make your money work for you rather than against you. Credit card companies are getting craftier as the economy struggles. 25% of all credit card users in this country will have their rates raised this year, or their monthly payment raised. When you are in debt, you are at the mercy of the company you owe. Don’t let yourself get bogged down by credit card debt.
3. Cook at home. It sounds so basic and yet how many of us resort to eating out because we just can’t deal with dinner? By taking a few moments once a week to devise a menu plan, shopping for the needed ingredients for that menu plan, and cooking the meals in your home, you can save lots of money and have more time to gather as a family and enjoy a slow evening at home. Eating at home not only saves money, it saves valuable family time.
4. Buy clothes at thrift or consignment stores. This is especially true with children’s clothes. When you are in a department store, always shop the clearance racks and avoid the other racks so you aren’t tempted. It’s also an income generator if you consign your own clothing. You can then take the money you earn on consignment and buy clothes for a new season without being out of pocket any money!
5. If you must eat out, only go to places you have coupons for. Keep a small photo album and arrange restaurant coupons so they are easy to find as you are heading out the door. It’s also a great idea to look for “kids eat free” nights and frequent those. Other ways to save on eating out include ordering water (big savings on this), share meals, order a kids’ portion if the restaurant allows it, and go out for lunch instead of dinner. For people who work, it’s always a good idea to pack your lunch regularly instead of running out to eat. A jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread will go a long way.
6. Learn to play the coupon game. Many people devote themselves to clipping and organizing coupons—and reap great savings from doing so. There are many frugal websites and blogs that detail exactly how to save a lot of money with coupons. A great one to start with is www.couponmom.com. And here is a great tutorial video you can watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DcAUZvGS6L8.
7. If you have children, limit the number of activities they do to one per child, per year. If you are struggling to pay for even one activity, consider asking for the activity as a gift from grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, etc. Instead of another toy that will end up broken or lost, your child can receive a gift that truly keeps on giving as well as one that invests in their future.
8. Think about the things you regularly spend money on like gas or utilities and research ways to save money on those things. For instance, www.gasbuddy.com tells you where to buy the cheapest gas according to your area code. Bundling services with your cable provider can save money each month. Calling your energy company to find out when their off-peak hours are and doing your laundry or dishes during those times can save on your monthly bill as well.
9. Don’t shop as a recreational activity. If you can’t see it, you won’t feel a need to have it. Use time you used to spend shopping to go for a walk, visit a park, exercise, read a book, or spend time researching money-saving sites on the internet! If you have a friend you used to enjoy shopping with, sit down and list out other alternatives for your time together.
10. Look for ways to generate additional income. Whether it be an additional part-time job or a way to make money from home using a skill or talent you possess, get creative, get motivated, and get excited about the potential you have to generate income that you didn’t have before. Every little bit helps, so put on your thinking cap and don’t be shy about stepping out and trying something!
Marybeth Whalen is the wife of Curt and mom of six children, ages teen to toddler. Marybeth is a member of the Proverbs 31 Ministries speaker team and a regular contributor to their daily devotions. She and her husband Curt co-authored Learning To Live Financially Free. Marybeth speaks regularly to women’s groups and enjoys sharing stories from her daily adventures as a wife, mom, homeschooler, writer, and, most importantly, a follower of God. You can find her online at www.marybethwhalen.com or at Learning To Live Financially Free.
©2009, Marybeth Whalen